I've failed at stuff before. We all have. We don't like to talk about it, and there's this massive stigma against failing that is stomped into us from an early age, but why is that? Why are we told from day one that if we do something for the first time and do it badly that we've failed at it?
Here's some Friday food for thought I gleaned from Sara Blakely, the CEO of Spanx, as she explains in a concise 95 second video (shared below): Failure isn't trying something and not doing well; failure is never trying it at all.
So for a second, I'm thinking, 'hey, I know that -- that's not new.' Because like I said, I've failed at stuff before, and for a long time I've been the 'don't be afraid to fail' type --- go out there, try, fail, fall, get back up, try again. Except maybe I've been putting the word fail in the wrong place.
If I try something and I suck at it, why is THAT failing? How many things are we brilliant at right out of the gate? My first few plays weren't awesome. They were far from it; I mean, I cringe when I read the dialogue and story structure I was churning out 15 years ago. Yet, I never considered them failures. Were they badly written? Yes; but I learned from them. I learn from every scene I write, every scene I read, every play I watch, every story I tell. I learn. I get better. That's the point, right?
But there are tons of things I've never tried because I was so worried that I'd be bad at them. Worried I would fail. Sport comes to mind. I don't play sports. I watch them. I understand them. But when I was younger, I was convinced I'd fail on the field, so I didn't try.
This past year, I started working out with a trainer, as part of group. And there were times where we played basketball, and I was almost reluctant to try; because I convinced myself at some point that I am not good at sports. I was afraid of looking ridiculous and doing poorly and losing. Of failing. Luckily, my trainer and my workout pals were encouraging and supportive (and some of them had the same anxiety) and so we played. And we were awful. And we played some more. And we were less awful. And we had fun. I had fun.
Sara Blakely offers us a lovely philosophy that all too often can get lost or pushed aside. Even if we attempt something and we're awful at it, we can learn and try again and get better at it, or we figure out that there's something else we can do. Either way, we tried. And by trying, we didn't fail. It's a great concept because no one is great at everything, but fear of failure keeps so many of us from even trying in the first place to find out what's possible.
I've failed at stuff before... not because I couldn't do something, but because I was too afraid to try.
What have you been putting off because you're afraid to fail at it? Auditioning for that play? Writing that script? Going back to school? Taking cooking lessons? Applying for that job? Working out? Learning a new language?
Whatever it is --- make the attempt. You won't fail if you try.
Here's Sara's take on it. Watch it. Think about it. Live it.
Thoughts. From my brain. Anything to do with how we tell stories and the stories we tell each other. Literally and figuratively.
Writer. Husband. Father. Effulgent dreamer. A Fightin' Irishman (@NDdotEDU '01). A playwriting Bobcat (MFA in Playwriting, @OhioU '13). I write plays. I'm a geek. I wanted to be an astronaut. I go places in my head.